Sarah Jarosz since she was 13, when I met her at the Rockygrass Academy. Even at
that age she could play rings around me and most other mandolin players in the
advanced workshops. Watching Jarosz play with Domenic Lesley and Chris Thile
during a subsequent Rockygrass workshop was a real musical treat. So it should
come as no surprise when I tell you I'm more than slightly a fan.
Follow Me Down
is Jarosz' second album. She's been attending the New England Conservatory
where she's studying contemporary improvisation on an NEC Presidential Merit
Scholarship. I think I can already hear NEC's influence on her musical style.
It's not as if she's suddenly playing Bach or BeBop, but Jarosz' latest
compositions have a greater range of melodic expression and more diverse
influences than the songs on her first album, Song
Up In Her Head. Follow Me Down
is less old-timey gothic and more directed toward modern 21st century
acoustic music. Not that Jarosz has fully abandoned gothic themes – one of her
original songs, "Annabelle Lee," draws major inspiration from the Edgar
Allen Poe poem with the same name.
Joining Jarosz on Follow Me
Down are a host of exceptional players including the Punch Brothers
Band, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Dan Tyminski,
Darrell Scott, and her regular touring "group" of Alex Hargreaves and
Nathaniel Smith. Produced by Gary Paczosa, whose work with Alison Krauss has
garnered a bunch of Grammys, the sound throughout the album is clear yet warm.
And even with double tracking and EQ tricks Jarosz' voice retains its direct
and guileless power. Her picking isn't bad either, although much of her
playing is relegated to fundamental rhythm parts with only the occasional solo.
But given an opportunity Jarosz churns out a lead lines on her octave mandolin
solo on "Old Smitty" that are seriously HOT. Hopefully Follow
Me Down will help create the legions of fans she deserves.